This Is Not The Gaze Of Sanity
If we assume the prequels are canon (even Jar Jar) then Obi-Wan’s mental journey makes a sharp left turn into psychopathsville once he enters retirement on Tatooine. Specifically, when we consider how he spent the 20 years after cutting Anakin’s legs off, but before Anakin cut him into a force-ghost.
Pictured: Obi Wan’s hut. Not Pictured: 1,000-Piece Puzzles
I mean, aside from stalking young Luke and waiting for the empire to get bored and disintegrate Aunty and Unky Lars, what keeps Obi-Wan sane? Those walls above look pretty bare, and the furniture is sparse at best. So what was that old crank up to? Tetris? Sudoku?
Or, was he waging a one-man war against the planet’s native Tuskens, slowly reducing them to a shadow population of their former glory? Does that last one sound like a stretch? Let me explain. But first, a warning.
Imagine the emotional fallout Obi Wan was facing at the end of the prequels. Imagine the broken spirit of a Jedi Knight whose entire order has been crushed, whose best friend and pupil was left legless in a volcano, who has just retired from a life of rich political intrigue, high-stakes negotiating, and PTSD-inducing battles. Now drop that man into isolation on a planet of dunes. Endless, boring dunes.
What would you do to keep your Jedi skills sharp?
During the prequels we see evidence of a large Tusken Raider population, bold enough and aggressive enough to take pot-shots at pod racers during the Boonta Eve event. That takes some big sandy balls right there. The Tuskens (named so because they raid-murdered the settlement of Tusken) are willing to shoot at–on live television–the planet’s most popular sports figures. That would be akin to a group of casual snipers take shots at Formula 1 racers in front of millions of spectators…if Formula 1 was the most popular sport on the planet.
The raiders are also known for kidnapping moisture farmers. That sentence alone should tell you everything you need to know about how pervasive the Tusken Menace was on Tatooine. They were known for kidnapping and torturing, to death, the people whose job it is to provide water to the planet’s population. Those farms should be better guarded than oil wells in war. But the raiders get away with it until Anakin shows up to ruin their day.
Now consider how the Tuskens are portrayed in Star Wars: A New Hope. Twenty years later, after the Anakin incident, Obi-Wan practically has to explain every nuance about Sandpeople to Luke. This isn’t lazy exposition for the audience. This is because Luke, having grown up on those very same farms that were getting raided by Tuskens, has to be told about their tactics and habits. Obi Wan has to explain that they travel in single-file, that they scare easy, and they have crappy aim. Stuff Luke would know if the Tuskens were as pernicious a threat as they were 20 years ago.
If you grow up near forests you’re warned about bears and wolves. Live near the ocean, you’re warned about riptides and tsunamis. And if you grow up in Australia you’re warned about the many venomous creatures god has sent to punish you. The only way Luke wouldn’t know absolutely everything about Tuskens by age five would be if they were a non-issue. It’s almost as if a hermit with supernatural fighting abilities has been living between the Tuskens and the farmers for a generation or so, reducing their population steadily, until they were no longer a threat to civilization.
Maybe, just maybe, the Tuskens who flee from Obi-Wan in A New Hope aren’t running scared because he disguised himself as a moaning hobo. For a species that passes on their history orally, how would they remember the few Jedi they’d come into contact with?
Obi-Wan doesn’t spook the Tusken Raiders with his wacky getup. He scares the sand out of them because he has hunted them for two decades. And they know, culturally, to fear the Jedi. The bard-like lessons they’ve been sharing for the past 20 years are of Jedi slaughtering whole villages because of a kidnapped dame. And it’s happened not once, but twice. Those are Pablo Escobar levels of retribution.
Lastly, I’d like to point out that young prequel Obi-Wan was flowery in his swordsmanship during his battle with Darth Maul. But by the time he’s hacking dudes apart in Mos Eisly, we’re given to understand that Old Ben doesn’t mess around anymore when it comes to fighting. In Bushido, the art of drawing the sword to open an attack is called Iaijutsu. When Luke is shoved during the bar scuffle, Obi-Wan doesn’t draw the saber and hold it high like a Knight getting ready for a fair contest. He draws and strikes, making two precise cuts– one of which chops the loud-mouth assailant in half, according to the original script, and the other takes his friend’s arm along with the blaster he was wielding.
This is a man who has learned from experience that the most effective way to stop an opponent is to slice them into tidy pieces.
Images and Tusken facts from Wookieepedia.
“Sand people are easily startled.” Obi-Wan tells Luke in A New Hope. Well, sure. But you’d be easily startled too, if a literal boogeyman with wizard powers and a laser sword moved into your neighborhood. And then he just stayed there. For twenty years. Only venturing out to visit a young farm boy.
That’s not a hero of the galaxy. That’s Freddy Krueger with a beard.